People of Color: Who was Vicente Guerrero?

SMSI want to take advantage of tomorrow being April Fools Day to comment on the hypocrisy surrounding the neologism “people of color.”  The term is terribly misused by political partisans and ethnic activists in the US.  Republicans use it to express their angst that America is turning against them.  Genetically European groups .. esp. Hispanic Americans .. use the term to absorb the mantle of the Black civil rights movement.  Black activists use “POC” to inflate the numbers of “minority” children deserving special attention in the pubic schools. The UW conflates Hispanic and black as an all too convenient way of not dealing with America’s obligations to the descendents of slaves.

..   it is also an important anniversary if we broaden the idea of “African American” yo include ALL the Americas,  This essay from Denise Oliver VelezFollow for Daily Kos adds a different point of view … the way we use terms like “Black” or “POC” to dismiss a great neighboring ethnic group .. the Caribbeans!

Back to April 1st.  The Kos essay tell about Vicente Guerrero, who became Mexico’s second president on April 1, 1829. His father, Pedro Guerrero, was an Afro-Mexican and his mother Guadalupe Saldaña, was indigenous.  (SMS: what we gringoes call a “native american.”)

SMS: I suppose that would make Sr. Guerrero’s descendents people of color?

Disparagingly nicknamed “el Negro Guerrero”by his political enemies, Guerrero would in the United States have been classified as a mulatto. According to one of his biographers, Theodore G. Vincent, Guerrero was of mixed African, Spanish and Native American ancestry, and his African ancestry most probably derived from his father, Juan Pedro, whose profession “was in the almost entirely Afro-Mexican profession of mule driver.” Some scholars speculate that his paternal grandfather was either a slave, or a descendant of African slaves.Guerrero was born in 1783 in a town near Acapulco called Tixtla, which is now located in the state that bears his name. It is the only state named after a former Mexican head of state, and it is the location of the Costa Chica, the traditional home of the Afro-Mexican community in Mexico.

If we are to obfuscate his heritage under the term “mulatto or mestizo,” how is this not true for Barack Obama? What we also know about Guerrero was that he was kept from attending school because of his mixed caste.  A half-length posthumous portrait of Vicente Guerrero, taken from Báez, Eduardo La pintura militar de México en el siglo XIX, Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Mexico: 1992), p. 45.

Portraits of Guerrero were “whitened” over time.

In 2011, a research investigation about Vicente Guerrero’s African ethnicity won an award from the Scientific Committee on the Slave Route Project of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).  Researcher, Maria Dolores Ballesteros from the Mora Institute, was recognized for her analysis of the representations of Vicente Guerrero in Mexico pictorial iconography…Guerrero, was represented more and more white in the paintings of the time, as prejudices developed about Africans and African descendants.De castas y esclavos a ciudadanos. Las representaciones visuales de la población capitalina de origen africano. Del periodo virreinal a las primeras décadas del México Independiente

Click for a list of famous Caribbean Americans: Marcus Garvey, Colin Powell, Harry Belafonte, Shirley Chisholm, Godfrey Cambridge,Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,Lakshmi Singh,Eric Holder, Sonia SotomayerAlexander Hamilton

Then there is the story of Jose Nieto Gil, the first black president of Colombia (1861), who was left out of history books, until sociologist Orlando Fals Borda spent years documenting his history and the whitewashing of his legacy. See: The black president Colombia forgot

Part of the problem is the acceptance of “the West Indies” (those parts of the Caribbean which were formerly British colonies) and Haiti as “black.” Yet on the same island with Haiti, the next door neighbor the Dominican Republic is “Hispanic or Latino.” We include historic political figures like Marcus Garvey or cultural icons like Bob Marley (both Jamaican) but do not do the same for latino revolutionary leaders like Don Pedro Albizu Campos (whose mother was black) and who served in the all-Black 375th Regiment.

So rarely does our Black History Month cross borders, and artificial boundaries (and yes “race” is itself one of those) but the huge segment of African diasporic history in the New World fails to embrace Afro-Latinos, or Afro-Brazilians.

Anthropologist Sidney Mintz has designated the entire Caribbean basin region as the Afro-Caribbean, a culture area linked by roots in the transatlantic slave trade and plantation slavery, whose cultures are rooted in blackness, no matter the current phenotype of the citizenry.

Thankfully, some ol this is changing. a major breakthrough in the media was Henry Louis Gates’ series Black in Latin America was first aired on PBS in 2011.

Latin America is often associated with music, monuments and sun, but each of the six countries featured in Black in Latin America including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, has a secret history. On his journey, Professor Gates discovers, behind a shared legacy of colonialism and slavery, vivid stories and people marked by African roots. Latin America and the Caribbean have the largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa — up to 70 percent of the population in some countries. The region imported over ten times as many slaves as the United States, and kept them in bondage far longer. On this series of journeys, Professor Gates celebrates the massive influence of millions of people of African descent on the history and culture of Latin America and the Caribbean, and considers why and how their contribution is often forgotten or ignored.

Gates speaks about how his eyes were opened to this history of the “other Americans”:

It wasn’t until my sophomore year at Yale, as a student auditing Robert Farris Thompson’s art-history class, the Trans-Atlantic Tradition: From Africa to the Black Americas, that I began to understand how “black” the New World really was. Professor Thompson used a methodology that he called the “tri-continental approach” — complete with three slide projectors — to trace visual leitmotifs that recurred among African, African-American and Afro-descended artistic traditions and artifacts in the Caribbean and Latin America, to show, à la Melville Herskovits, the retention of what he called “Africanisms” in the New World. So in a very real sense, I would have to say that my fascination with Afro-descendants in this hemisphere, south of the United States, began in 1969, in Professor Thompson’s very popular — and extremely entertaining and rich — art-history lecture course.In addition, Sidney Mintz’s anthropology courses and his brilliant scholarly work on the history of the role of sugar in plantation slavery in the Caribbean and Latin America also served to awaken my curiosity about another Black World, a world both similar to and different from ours, south of our borders. And Roy Bryce-Laporte, the courageous chair of the program in Afro-American studies, introduced me to black culture from his native Panama. I owe so much of what I know about African-American culture in the New World to these three wise and generous professors.

But the full weight of the African presence in the Caribbean and Latin America didn’t hit me until I became familiar with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, conceived by the great historians David Eltis and David Richardson and based now at Emory University. Between 1502 and 1866, 11.2 million Africans survived the dreadful Middle Passage and landed as slaves in the New World.

I am using segments of his series in my classes, along with other resources available online, many of which are discussed in this clip:

Afro-Latinos: The untaught story, a documentary that is still in the works, has a wealth of resources on their website.


High school and college age students have appreciated these contemporary actors sharing their stories about dealing with being Black and Latino.


I admire the work and activism of my friend Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, an Afro-Boricua, one of the founders of El Museo del Barrio, and the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York, who has worked tirelessly over the years to bring these histories to the forefront.


There are also blogs like Afro-Mexico, AfroCubaWeb and projects like LatiNegr@s

This award-winning project started as the formal US focus on Black History Month (February 1-28/9) was upon us. Please know that our goal to celebrate all of the peoples who have influence and history via the African Diasporas. Expanding the inclusively of Blackness is not just during Black History Month but all year round for several of us, self-identified LatiNeg@s, Afro-Latin@s and Afro-Caribeños.This site is 365 days a year 24 hours a day 7 days a week! As people who recognize and claim the African heritage and history, we have often been excluded from US History, whether it be Black history, Womyn’s Herstory (March) or Latino history (September 15-October 15) (to name a few).

As we move forward, forging new and stronger progressive political coalitions for the future, we need to have a clearer understanding of how to build stronger bridges between people in the artificial demographic divides used for our voting analyses.

Though much has been written about immigration reform, and how that will affect the voting choices of “Latino/Hispanic” communities, let us not forget that the virulent racism of the Republican Party does not play well in Afro-Latino households.

Does that mean that there is no prejudice between ethnic groups? No. But one of the ways to combat racism and bigotry is to broaden our understanding of the depth and importance of the black historical and contemporary experience for all of us.

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  1. 1

    Hang on he’s not the only black male newsreader on British TV!!! I’m black, and tohugh we’re a small mnority in the UK, there are/have been plenty of black and other ethnic minority male AND female news presenters on British TV!!!For a start, how about BBC’s long-serving newsreader/corrspondent Clive Myrie (he’s Afro-Caribbean, is on BBC News Channel regularly and was presenting BBC One’s News at 10 last week!), then there’s the Afro-Caribbean Tony Morris, the main co-presenter of ITV1 s Granada Tonight (incidentally, the programme on which Gamal Fahnbulleh started his TV career!), which is broadcast across North West England in peak time. And there was BBC’s Afro-Caribbean Darren Jordon (now with Al-Jazeera English), while Lizo Mzimba presented BBC Newsround (the world’s first news programme for children, on which there are now TWO Afro-Caribbean co-presenters) & Mzimba is now Entertainment Correspondent on BBC News at 6. Sean Fletcher is Afro-Caribbean and was BBC News main sports newsreader (now with Sky News). Women are important too: Gillian Joseph, who is also Afro-Caribbean, was the main presenter of BBC One’s London News (she’s now with Sky News), and now there’s another ethnic minority presenter who has taken her place: Riz Lateef. There are plenty of other ethnic minority news presenters on British TV: BBC One’s Norhwest Tonight has Ranvir Singh as main co-presenter. Afro-Caribbean black women include the BBC’s longest-serving TV newsreader in history, Moira Stuart, who was presenting main BBC One news programmes for over 25 years, Juliet Foster with the BBC News Business News and Sky’s Lukwesa Burak. BBC’s George Alagiah presents BBC One’s News at 6 nearly every weekday, and Matthew Amroliwallah is on every day on BBC News Channel, while many black’other ethnic minority presenters started on Channel 4 News (in peak time), such as Zeinab Badawi (now with BBC), Shahnaz Pakrivan and Daljit Dhaliwal. Until recently, Samira Ahmed (who started on BBC) was a co-presenter of Ch 4 News (now back on BBC). Krishnan Guru-Murthy is a main presenter of Channel 4 News, while Faisal Islam is Economics Editor. BBC News also has the excellent senior presenter Mishal Husain, who sometimes presents BBC One’s News at 10 she was the main presenter of BBC’s superb Olympics programmes, ITV News has Nina Hossain as a main presenter, BBC Two’s Daily Politics’ presenter Anita Anand appeared almost every day, until she moved to BBC Radio Five recently. And how about Alice Bhandhukravi, who has stood in for both Gillian Joseph and Riz Lateef on BBC London News?! And don’t forget Rizo Hizon and Sharanjit Leyl, who are main co-presenters of BBC’s Newsday, simulcast on BBC News Channel and the international satellite’global BBC World News network!!!We ARE a small minority in the UK, but ethnic minorities are comparatively well-represented on TV. Just look at our representation on main channels in Germany or France, or other European countries, and you’ll find that things are FAR, FAR worse there! And a MAIN network black news presenter in Europe, Australia or Canada, who has presented for YEARS, like Moira Stuart, Trevor McDonald or Clive Myrie? FORGETABOUTIT!!!